Erbil, also spelt Arbil (Kurdish: ھەولێر / Hewlêr), locally called Hawler by the Kurds, is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan and the most populated city in the Kurdish inhabited areas. It is located approximately in the center of Iraqi Kurdistan region and north of Iraq. It has about 850,000 inhabitants, and Erbil governorate has a permanent population of 2,009,367 as of 2015.
Human settlement at Erbil can be dated back to possibly 5th millennium BC, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world. At the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Erbil. The earliest historical reference to the region dates to the Third Dynasty of Ur of Sumer, when King Shulgi mentioned the city of Urbilum. The city was later conquered by the Assyrians.
Erbil became an integral part of the kingdom of Assyria by at least the 21st century BC through to the end of the seventh century BC, after it was captured by the Gutians, and it was known in Assyrian annals variously as Urbilim, Arbela and Arba-ilu. After this it was part of the geopolitical province of Assyria under several empires in turn, including the Median Empire, the Achaemenid Empire (Achaemenid Assyria), Macedonian Empire, Seleucid Empire, Parthian Empire, Roman Assyria and Sasanian Empire (Asōristān), as well as being the capital of the tributary state of Adiabene between the mid-second century BC and early second century AD.
Erbil’s archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artefacts, particularly the art of Mesopotamia, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area. The city was designated as Arab Tourism Capital 2014 by the Arab Council of Tourism. In July 2014, the Citadel of Arbil was inscribed as a World Heritage site.
The city has an ethnically diverse population of Kurds (the majority ethnic group), Armenians, Assyrians, Arabs, Iraqi Turkmens, Yezidis, Shabakis and Mandaeans. It is equally religiously diverse, with believers of Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Christianity (mainly followed by Assyrians and Armenians), Yezidism, Yarsanism, Shabakism and Mandaeism extant in and around Erbil.
The Citadel of Arbil is a tell or occupied mound in the historical heart of Erbil, rising between 25 and 32 metres (82 and 105 ft) from the surrounding plain. The buildings on top of the tell stretch over a roughly oval area of 430 by 340 metres (1,410 ft × 1,120 ft) occupying 102,000 square metres (1,100,000 sq ft). It has been claimed that the site is the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world. The earliest evidence for occupation of the citadel mound dates to the 5th millennium BC and possibly earlier.
During the 20th century, the urban structure was significantly modified, as a result of which a number of houses and public buildings were destroyed. In 2007, the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR) was established to oversee the restoration of the citadel.
The covered Erbil Qaysari Bazaars, lying below the main entrance to the citadel and stocking mainly household goods and tools.The 36-metre-high (118-foot) Mudhafaria Minaret, situated in Minaret Park several blocks from the citadel, dates back to the late 12th century AD and the Governor of Erbil, in the reign of Saladin, Muzaffar Al-Din Abu Sa’eed Al-Kawkaboori (Gökböri), who had entered in the obedience of Salahuddin without war and married his sister. It has an octagonal base decorated with two tiers of niches, which is separated from the main shaft by a small balcony, also decorated. Another historical minaret with turquoise glazed tiles is nearby.
The Mound of Qalich Agha lies within the grounds of the Museum of Civilization, 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the citadel. An excavation in 1996 found tools from the Halaf, Ubaid and Uruk periods.
Kurdish Textile Museum.
Official page of Erbil Governorate: https://www.hawlergov.org/app/en
A short promo video about Erbil City (Credit: Kurdistan Regional Government)